Are there special ceremonies around birth and death?
When a Muslim child is born, the first ceremony to be performed is to recite “Adhan” and “Iqamah” in the ears of the new born. This can be performed by anyone and is usually whispered into the ears of the baby. Adhan, is the Call to Prayer which invites the Muslims to the obligatory Prayers while Iqamah is the notice that Prayer is about to start. The purpose of the ceremony is to emphasize upon Muslims that the main object of human life is to worship God and from the time of birth a child should be made aware of this.
Traditionally, the first food or substance that the mouth of the baby comes in contact with is considered important. Therefore before the baby begins nursing, a pious member of the family offers ripe dates, honey or fruit juices or any suitable baby food. This was practice of the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) and is continued by followers.
According to the Islamic traditions, seven days after the birth, the head of the baby is clean shaved. If that cannot be done on the seventh day, it can be performed on the 14th or 21st day.
For a male child, circumcision is another ceremony which is essential dating back to the time of Prophet Abraham(as).
Usually on the seventh day after the birth of the baby an animal is sacrificed and a feast follows wherein friends, relatives and neighbours are invited and some of the sacrificial meat is distributed among the poor. The animal sacrificed can be a goat, sheep, lamb, cow or camel. One animal is sacrificed for a girl while two are required for a boy.
In Islam, death is treated with great dignity. Muslims strive to bury the deceased as soon as possible after death, avoiding the need for embalming or otherwise disturbing the body of the deceased. A deceased Muslim is due utmost respect and his body is handled according to the sunnah (action) of the Holy Prophet(sa). The body is given a ritual bath, and wrapped in two white sheets before being put in a coffin.
Once it is prepared, the funeral service is held. The Imam leads the funeral (janaza) prayer, with the mourners standing in rows behind him. The funeral prayer is similar in structure to the five daily prayers, with a few variations. (For example, there is no bowing or prostration, and the entire prayer is said silently but for a few words.) The deceased is then taken to the cemetery for burial. At the gravesite, it is discouraged for people to erect tombstones, elaborate markers, or put flowers or other mementos. Rather, one should humbly remember Allah and His mercy, and pray for the deceased. Cremation is not permitted in Islam.